News | South Africa | Education
It makes no sense for teachers to return to school, weeks before the postponed reopening date, as they are just as vulnerable to Covid-19 and the educationdepartment’s decision shows no regard for the lives of workers, according to the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) .
Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule announced on Friday that the reopening of schools would be postponed by two weeks, with pupils expected to return to school on 15 February instead of the initial date of 27 January.
Teachers and school management teams (SMTs) are, however, still expected to report for duty on 25 January.
While the postponement was welcomed by the union and experts, Sadtu was not consulted when it came to education workers, said general secretary Mugwena Maluleke.
“Sadtu does not agree with the call for educators and SMTs to report for duty from 25 January. The unions were not consulted.
“We wonder what informed this decision because teachers are as vulnerable to the pandemic as the learners.
“This shows the [department] has no regard for the lives of the workers, who are the ones who are infected and overwhelming the hospitals.
“The National Coronavirus Command Council’s (NCCC) decision was aimed at helping the health system to cope with the crisis our country is facing.”
More than 1,600 teachers have succumbed to Covid-19 since the virus outbreak began in March last year.
But union Solidarity strongly opposed the postponement, criticising it as a “short-sighted” decision by government to keep children out of schools.
Spokesperson Johnell van Vollenhoven said teachers were already under pressure due to last year’s backlog and further delays would be unreasonable.
“Solidarity cannot merely accept that the jobs of our members who are working in education are jeopardised.
“This is the umpteenth time that the government is sacrificing citizens, in this case teachers, on the stake because their own preparation is lacking,” said Van Vollenhoven.
A two-week delay would not have a negative impact on the academic year, considering the dire situation the pandemic had currently left the country in, said education policy analyst Sara Black.
“Imagine what would happen in schools if the infection rate remains as high as it is now and people get sick. We have lost over 1,000 teachers and every teacher loss inhibits the school’s ability to offer teaching and learning.
“We weren’t going back to a good situation from the beginning.
“I don’t think the delay by two weeks will have a negative effect … 80% to 85% [of pupils] are pushed through to the next year after not having completed and mastered the previous year’s material.”
Epidemiologist Professor Jo Barnes said it has not been proven that schools are super-spreaders.
“With the old Covid-19, not so many children got ill. But with the new variant, it looks as though they are more at risk…the postponement is a good thing.
“At present, the super-spreader thing hasn’t been proven. But schools have the potential to become super-spreaders,” she said.
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